Nicola Zingaretti’s patience has run out. After a year of mending gaps and mediating, supporting a government that he didn’t himself want, he is now tired: of the whims of his allies, of course, but above all of the maneuvers to get rid of him. These maneuvers aim to put Matteo Renzi on top, who is ready to take advantage of the likely debacle at the regional elections to seize control of the party once again through Stefano Bonaccini.
This plan for a “hostile takeover,” according to a member of Parliament very close to Zingaretti, is much more than just a wish: it is a plan already laid out in great detail, ready to be set in motion on Sept. 21. Hence the long letter that Zingareti wrote on Tuesday in La Repubblica: a warning signal to both enemies and presumed allies (including Conte and the Five Stars) that in the aftermath of the regional elections and the referendum, he will not be made the “scapegoat” of a possible defeat. And that if he will be the target of recriminations in order to blow up the government and the current leadership of the PD, the only alternative will be early elections.
In such a case, with the lists put together by the current secretary, Italia Viva is at risk of disappearing altogether (as it is polling under 3%), while the M5S—due in part to the cut in the size of Parliament—would likely have only a third of its current contingent. Zingaretti’s message to his enemies is “come forward.”
“If anyone believes that the alliance with M5S is over, let them have the courage to call for either elections or solutions that would be an embarrassment to politics,” he said — that is, a government of national unity led by Draghi. “I am not afraid to face immediate political elections,” he wrote in the starkest passage in the letter.
“One cannot be endlessly patient,” explained Goffredo Bettini, the PD leader’s main adviser, to il manifesto. “There is a combination of forces that wants to eliminate the happy anomaly of this leading group of the PD that has saved the country and helped change the Five Stars.”
Who exactly is aiming to oust them? “Political forces, and not only.” Including those party comrades (starting with the former followers of Renzi) “who lecture us about reformism every day, while we practice it,” stresses Bettini, who is furious with Renzi: “Despite my invitation of some days ago, he continues attacking the PD. if he wants to be a showoff, he should at least stay out of the government, as Calenda is doing.” And again: “If it wants to last until 2022, this coalition must give itself an identity and a mission. It is not possible to go on with us playing on the field and the others throwing things at us from the bleachers.”
“The challenge of the regional elections involves everyone, starting with Conte,” stresses Bettini. “However, in almost all regions, we are alone in carrying the weight of the responsibility of being a bulwark against the right. If we want to move forward, the responsibility can no longer be on our shoulders alone.”
The PD leadership at Via Nazareno are furious about Renzi’s attitude. “In Puglia, where we’re fighting to the last vote, Scalfarotto is also running, who is also an undersecretary in this government. How is that possible?” complained another member of parliament from the small circle of the PD leaders. Not to mention the continuous sabotage of the electoral law, which was supposed to mitigate the effects of the cut in the size of Parliament.
The anger is not only directed at the mutinous former PD leader, but also at Conte, who is being accused off the record of not having made enough of an effort to pass the electoral law. He is likewise accused of disinterest in the ILVA case in his native Puglia. One hardly needs to mention the Five Stars. Bettini is calling the lack of an agreement to not run against each other in Puglia and Marche “a desertion.”
The nightmare scenario for the PD leader is to find himself in the same situation as Veltroni in 2009, when the PD lost the regional election in Sardinia. Then, the PD secretary, having had enough of the friendly fire, threw in the towel. Such a scenario risks repeating itself if the regionals will end with 4 wins for the center-right against 2 for the PD. And events would precipitate even more if the right were to win in Tuscany, where a poll by Sole24Ore showed the Lega candidate Susanna Ceccardi just half a point behind the PD’s Eugenio Giani. If the PD loses Tuscany, things will get really bad for its leader. But even if he were to lose only Puglia and Marche (in addition to Liguria and Veneto), that could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This is why Zingaretti explicitly appealed for a strategic vote: “either us or Salvini.”
Solitude is still weighing down on the Democratic leader. On the eve of such a sensitive vote, he sees plots being hatched, but above all he hears a deafening silence from those who should be supporting him. Even from inside his party. The mayor of Pesaro, Matteo Ricci, and the mayor of Bologna, Virginio Merola, are some who have expressed their support: “Everyone wanted this government to prevent the country from being handed over to authoritarian nationalism,” says Merola. “But they keep pulling the other way. If you think that a possible defeat at the regional elections is a problem that concerns only the Democratic Party, you’re deluded – you’re sawing off the branch on which we’re all sitting.”
The mayor of Bologna says: “After the regional elections, a clarification will be inevitable. We cannot accept even the suspicion that our allies think that it is better for the PD to lose.”